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Fall on Rock@Smith Rock


Original Post
anon98256 98256 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Description: On November 21 at around 11 a.m., two experienced (~5 years) climbers were attempting a route on the Smith rock group. One of the climbers (Person 1, male, age 30) was leading the 2nd to last pitch on the route when he fell after clipping the third bolt. He impacted the belay ledge approximately 15 feet below knocking a large chunk of rock down towards the start of the route. The climber continued to fall for approximately 5 feet past the ledge before being arrested by the belayer. The climber (Person 1) sustained injuries to ankle later diagnosed as a non-displaced fracture. The belayer (Person 2, male, age 30+) was clear of the path of rocks and escaped unharmed. The climbers were using a 60 m rope which was insufficient for rappelling back to the ground mid-climb. Person 2 finished the climb and helped the injured Person 1 jug up the route. Both pairs of climbers rappelled off the route via the regular rappel route.

Analysis: Despite being friends for a couple of years, the climbers had only shared a rope together, on lead, on rare occasions prior to this trip. Prior to the incident, Person 1 reported noticing Person 2 have a nonchalant attitude to belaying (e.g. sitting down, excessive slack in the system) but did not express his discomfort with the belay method. While on the route where the incident occurred, Person 2 was sitting on the belay ledge with his back to the Person 1 ( the climber) and doled slack out at regular intervals without cognizance of the amount of slack in the system and the climber's position on the wall. Person 1 had just clipped the 3rd bolt above his waist when a foothold broke initiating the fall. With appropriate slack in the system, the climber should only have fallen about 5 feet. The presence of excess slack contributed to the long fall. After the fall, Person 1 reported noticing the Person 2 with only one hand on the brake side and the other hand holding his climbing shoes. This likely led to the belayer not being able to adequately arrest the fall thereby adding to the total fall distance.  Both climbers were wearing helmets. The takeaway is the belayer must always have both hands on the rope during the belay, must maintain visual contact with the climber on the wall and adjust the slack in the system to avoid ledge impact especially at the beginning of the route. The climber's responsibility is to ensure the belayer is capable of giving a good belay and to speak up if he sees something incorrect. Broken egos heal faster than broken bones.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

Channeling Rob Taylor?  The Breach.  Kilimanjaro.  40+ years ago.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
anon98256 98256 wrote:

Prior to the incident, Person 1 reported noticing Person 2 have a non-nonchalant attitude to belaying (e.g. sitting down, excessive slack in the system) but did not express his discomfort with the belay method. 

He noticed poor belaying earlier, but didn't address it? Yet continued to occasionally climb with him? Well...

Edit: How do you know this story? Are you Person 1? Did you speak with Person 1?

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240
anon98256 98256 wrote:

The takeaway is the belayer must always have both hands on the rope during the belay, must maintain visual contact with the climber on the wall and adjust the slack in the system to avoid ledge impact especially at the beginning of the route.

Clearly you don't need visual contact to belay safely. It helps but if you have done alot of multi pitch climbing you will know that very often you lose visibility with the other climber. I am sure there are plenty of people who can belay perfectly fine sitting down with their back to the climber. It sounds like the belayer just was bad but the lead climber should have also been yelling at the belayer saying to take slack out of the system.

Jon Rhoderick · · Redmond, OR · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 865
anon98256 98256 wrote:

 two experienced (~5 years) climbers 

My immediate thought is that these are two climbers who have experienced the first year of climbing 5 years each, climber 1 should have had enough experience in 5 years to find a different belayer, climber 2 should be belaying with a grigri by now.

anon98256 98256 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Person 1= anon98256

FrankPS

 wrote:

He noticed poor belaying earlier, but didn't address it? Yet continued to occasionally climb with him? Well...

Edit: How do you know this story? Are you Person 1? Did you speak with Person 1?


Max Tepfer · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 1,645
anon98256 98256 wrote:

...The takeaway is the belayer must always have both hands on the rope during the belay, must maintain visual contact with the climber on the wall...

This isn't actually true.  While I agree that it sounds like you got a bad belay, (and with the subsequent comments pointing out that you chose to accept the belay you had despite knowing it to be sub standard) it's entirely appropriate to leave a single hand on the break strand.  Additionally, when multipitch climbing it is somewhat normal for the belayer to lose sight of the leader for various amounts of time. (sometimes the entire pitch)  Learning to still provide a good belay (by paying very close attention to the movement and tension in the rope) is crucial.  

The last thing to point out is that you say you fell due to a hold breaking just after clipping the 3rd bolt.  Given the random nature of this type of event, it could've been much worse if the hold had broken a few seconds sooner.  

Long story short, climbing is dangerous.  If you see something that concerns you, speak up in the least confrontational way possible!  I frequently say anything from 'watch me' to 'do you mind taking some slack in' when I look down and am sketched by what I see.  (usually I'm scared for no good reason and want the rope a little snugger if I'm trying a hard move, but there's no real consequence to the extra slack)  Talking about this stuff with your partner doesn't have to be a big deal and people are almost always receptive and responsive.  (and if they're not then it's easy to see that they're not good partners)

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

I believe your belayer should keeps his eyes on the leader, for as long as possible, without moving away from the wall or anything else unsafe. Sure, there are times you can't see the belayer, but as long as you can...you should. 

ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 240

Remember communication between leader / belayer is always really nice when you are not out of range. You should have a set of commands you expect to hear that means to give or take up slack and to let the belayer know you are starting / finished clipping to help him know when to give / take slack. The more you climb with someone the less you will probably need to communicate verbally because you will be familiar with how much slack they like to have etc but there is always those times when you will want to yell out be ready I may fall here etc.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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